65 episodes

Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...

Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language?

Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.

#SFTEW

Stories From The Eastern West Culture.pl

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.8 • 16 Ratings

Little-known histories from Central & Eastern Europe that changed our world...

Heard of how The Rolling Stones played for the Communist Party? The bear who fought in WWII? Or the man who single-handedly created an entire language?

Each episode of our narrative podcast tells incredible stories that all have one thing in common: the Eastern West.

#SFTEW

    CHAIN

    CHAIN

    In the very last episode of Stories of The Eastern West as you knew it, we’re taking you to Estonia, 1989. A group of people there made 2 million others hold hands and create a human chain of unprecedented size and significance.

    The Baltic countries had a truly turbulent 20th century. They went from regaining their independence to losing it to the USSR and becoming subject to a ruthless policy of Russification. Unsurprisingly, they needed something big to jump on the bandwagon of the 1989 peaceful revolutions that liberated several countries from the USSR’s influence. 
    What they came up with was a human chain linking Tallinn with Riga and Vilnius. This huge event is something hard to wrap one’s head around nowadays when we think about the scanty means of communication the organisers had. 
    Our producer Wojciech went to Estonia and got a chance to talk to several people who co-organised or participated in the event. How was it at all possible? Why wasn’t it thwarted by the communist regime? How do people remember such a defining moment in their lives over 30 years later?
    Further listening
    KAIE / our episode from our mini-series The Final Curtain about ‘The Singing Revolution’ that Adam mentions in the show Further reading
    The Longest Unbroken Human Chain In History / an article on estonianworld.com All the human chains in one place / an article on wikipedia.org Further watching
    The Inimitable Baltic Way / a Lithuanian documentary Thanks
    Ivi Gubinska, Reet Villig, Eve Sildnik, Andres Tarand and Lukas Hioo for taking the time to discuss this incredible event with us. Keiu Telve and Maia-Liisa Anton for connecting us with Baltic Way participants and their thoughtful discussions about the meaning of the event.  Credits
    Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak
    Edited by Adam Zulawski & Nitzan Reisner
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

    • 25 min
    PASSENGER

    PASSENGER

    Several years after the war, a strange encounter in the heart of Paris made Zofia Posmysz, a former Auschwitz prisoner, start wondering what it would be like to meet her camp overseer. Posmysz turned her fantasy in a successful radio play in which she explored the unlikely perspective of an oppressor, a Nazi German concentration camp overseer.  The story inspired a prolific young filmmaker Andrzej Munk – a representative of the Polish Film School, a group of filmmakers tackling the experience of war with new unorthodox approaches that collided with all the paradoxes of its traumatic events.   Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter!
    Click here to get the transcript
    Further reading Zofia Posmysz // bio on Culture.pl Andrzej Munk // bio on Culture.pl The Passenger // film description on Culture.pl The Passenger // book description on Culture.pl “Passenger” Depicts the Holocaust from the Point of View of a Nazi Official // article on NewYorker.com Andrzej Munk's The Passenger // article from Vertigo magazine The ‘Lucky Ship’: Rebellion, Desertion & Love on the MS Batory // article on Culture.pl The MS Batory: Culture.pl Readers Share their Photographs & Memories // article on Culture.pl Female guards in Nazi concentration camps // entry on Wikipedia.org Further watching Zofia Posmysz Talks about The Passenger // video interview on Culture.pl Zofia Posmysz: Memory That Will Save Us // video interview on Culture.pl Behind the Scenes: Zofia Posmysz's The Passenger in Yekaterinburg // video about the recent opera version on Culture.pl Thanks  Zofia Posmysz // author, screenwriter and writer for radio and televised theatre performances, reporter and broadcast radio editor. 
    Michał Oleszczyk // film historian and critic, member of the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI)
    Credits Written & produced by Monika Proba
    Edited by Wojciech Oleksiak & Adam Zulawski
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak 

    • 23 min
    EXILE

    EXILE

    Get to know Piotr Szkopiak, a London-based film and TV director who’s spent a good portion of his life pondering the nature of his identity.




    Piotr Szkopiak was born in the United Kingdom but into a Polish family. As he grew up, he learned that his parents and neighbours were all World War II prisoners of war who had escaped the USSR but couldn't go back to Poland after the war ended. His mother told him how she had travelled from the depths of the Soviet Union through Persia and southern Europe to the UK, and how after the war this is the place that she had to learn to call home.
    But first and foremost, his parents talked to him in Polish, signed him up for a Polish weekend school, and raised him as a person with a double identity: Polish and British. This in-betweenness has been something that strongly influenced his life and he reflects on it all in an interview he gave to Karolina Jackowiak, who on behalf of the Poles in South London organisation, was working on the Local Heroes Archive oral history project. We, at SFTEW, liked the story so much that we decided to turn it into one of our episodes.



    Click here to get the transcript
    Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter!



    Further listening ORPHANS // the SFTEW episode we mention in the podcast: how 700 Polish children made an unlikely journey from the depths of Siberia to the New Zealand countryside. BEAR // an even more unlikely tale from us at SFTEW: the bear who fought in World War II alongside Anders’ Army.


    Further reading Artists In Arms // the incredible odyssey of Anders’ Army, told through a multimedia guide from Culture.pl Soldiers, Artists: The Exhibitions of Anders’ Army // on Culture.pl Piotr Szkopiak // Piotr's IMDB profile Cultivating Polish Folk Dance in 1970s South London // another story from the Local Heroes Archive project Memories of South London’s Polish Music Scene // another story from the Local Heroes Archive project Poles in South London // the community’s official website


    Thanks Piotr Szkopiak // for letting us turn his story into a podcast episode.
    Poles in South London // especially Marta Sordyl and Łukasz Wołągiewicz from the organisation, for reaching out and offering this incredible story to us.



    Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak
    Edited by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

    • 25 min
    REVOLUTION

    REVOLUTION

    Nicolaus Copernicus, born in 1473, was the orphaned son of a copper merchant in Toruń. Thanks to his bishop uncle, he obtained a first class education at the Kraków Academy and then in Italy, where he became an avid observer of the night sky – even though he was supposed to be preparing for a church career.
    His day job as a church canon, diplomat and doctor in Frombork – when he wasn't defending castles against the Teutonic Knights – meant that it took him over 30 years to finish his book 'On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres' in which he presented an Earth-shattering new idea – that maybe it wasn't actually at the centre of the universe as everyone believed, but in fact revolved around the Sun.
    Although it would take another century until Galileo was able to prove Copernicus right inarguably using the later invention of the telescope, Copernicus's book, published in 1543 in Nuremberg, would mark the beginning of a very real revolution in science and our understanding of the universe.
    Listen to the episode to find out how he came to this unexpected conclusion, and what happened next.
    Click here to get the transcript
    Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter!


    Further reading Copernicus: Revelations about the Renaissance Man // on Culture.pl Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God – Jan Matejko // on Culture.pl A Quiz About Copernicus: More Than a Great Astronomer! // on Culture.pl Further watching Copernicus, by Jan Matejko // video by Waldemar Januszczak on YouTube.com Further visiting Nicolaus Copernicus Museum // in Frombork, Northern Poland Thanks Małgorzata Czupajło // Educator at the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum in Frombork.
    Dava Sobel // Science history writer and author of A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos.
    Prof. Karl Galle // Science historian at the American University in Cairo, currently working on a book delving into Copernicus's life in Warmia, including his roles as a church administrator, diplomat, cartographer and doctor.
    Lastly, a special thank you to the Nicolaus Copernicus Museum in Frombork for their help in making this episode possible.
    Credits Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko
    Edited by Wojciech Oleksiak & Adam Zulawski
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

    • 30 min
    DAISIES

    DAISIES

    Vera Chytilová was the most important woman director of the Czechoslovak New Wave – although she remains relatively unknown outside of Central Europe. As the first female student of the prestigious FAMU film school in Prague, she had to fight in order to do things her own way. During the creative explosion of the Czechoslovak New Wave, she made her most well known film ‘Daisies’ (1966) – a surrealist pop-art comedy, about two young women who set their minds on creating humorous destruction around them. The 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion of her country stopped Chytilová’s promising career dead in its tracks, but unlike Miloś Forman (‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest’, 1975) and others, she refused to emigrate, despite the huge personal cost. After seven years of professional exile, she was allowed to return to filmmaking in the late 1970s, once again finding critical success. After the privatisation of the Czech film industry in the 1990s, she was one of the first to adapt with ‘The Inheritance’ (1992) – a scathing satire on the effect free-for-all capitalism was having on her fellow citizens. Having never compromised on her beliefs, she remained a moral authority in her country until her death in 2014, and continues to inspire those lucky enough to come across her films for the first time. Listen to the episode to hear her fascinating story.
    Click here to get the transcript
    Like our show? Sign up for our newsletter!


    Further reading Vera Chytilova Dies at 85; Made Daring Films in Czech New Wave // on nytimes.com "It's still revolutionary' : Věra Chytilová’s Daisies comes sixth in BBC poll of films by women // on Czech Radio.cz The Cinematic Gems of the Czechoslovak New Wave // on Hyperallergic.com Poles Conquer Czech Cinema // on Culture.pl The Most Powerful Films From Beyond the Iron Curtain // on Culture.pl Further watching Naughty Young People: Chytilová, Kučera, Krumbachova (2012) // documentary at Vimeo.com Thanks Tereza Kučerova // set designer and visual artist, for talking to us about her mother, and her childhood memories of the dramatic events of 1968.
    Anička Hanáková // for helping translate our conversation and sharing her own memories of her grandmother.
    Dr. Michal Bregant // director of the National Film Archive in Prague, for sharing his experience of working with Chytilová in the 1980s.
    Professor Jan Bernard // for talking about his former teaching colleague at at FAMU.
    Dr. Jindřiška Bláhová // Assistant Film Studies Professor at Charles University, for sharing her knowledge of Chytilová's life and work.
    Jakub Felcman // filmmaker and former student of Chytilová at FAMU, for talking to us about the Czech director as a teacher and mentor.
    Lastly, a special thanks to Barbora Lochmanová from the Czech Film Center and Jitka Rohanova from the Polish Institute in Prague for their help in making the episode possible.
    Credits Written & produced by Piotr Wołodźko
    Edited by Wojciech Oleksiak & Adam Zulawski
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

    • 26 min
    VISIONARY

    VISIONARY

    Stanisław Lem was a science-fiction writer whose works, abilities and quirky sense of humor convinced Phillip K. Dick that he was too brilliant to exist and must have actually been a committee of people! Indeed his rare gift for blending philosophy with technology and action made him an instantaneously recognisable voice in the European sci-fi world and elevated him to the heights of popularity and critical acclaim.
    But Lem’s life was far from a textbook success story. Throughout his life, he struggled with traumatic wartime memories, distorted identities, and the communist system. But somehow, he was able to turn all the hardships and obstacles into elements of the incredible universes he created in his novels.
    In this episode, our hosts Nitzan and Adam will try to unravel some of the most confusing mysteries surrounding Lem: why did he choose to abandon his pre-war identity? How on Earth did he foresee the Internet in the 1960s? Is it true that he learned English from a dictionary in a week?
    Like our show? Get our newsletter!



    Further reading Stanisław Lem // bio on Culture.pl Stanisław Lem: Did the Holocaust Shape His Sci-Fi World? // on Culture.pl 13 Things Lem Predicted About The Future We Live In // on Culture.pl Phillip K. Dick: Stanisław Lem is a Communist Committee // on Culture.pl Lem Vs. Tarkovsky: The Fight Over ‘Solaris’ // on Culture.pl The Many Masks & Faces of Stanisław Lem // on Culture.pl Humorous Horrors: How Lem Taught His Nephew to Write Flawlessly // on Culture.pl 8 Science Fiction Films Adapted from Lem // on Culture.pl


    Further watching The Adventures of the Blindworm: An Orthographic Short Story by Stanisław Lem // on Culture.pl


    Thanks Agnieszka Gajewska // professor of literary studies, author of ‘Holocaust and the Stars: The Past in the Prose of Stanisław Lem’ (available in English from November 2021) and ‘Hasło: Feminizm’.
    Wojciech Orliński // a Polish journalist, writer, and blogger, author of the best-selling Lem biography ‘Lem: Życie Nie z tej Ziemi’ (Lem: A Life Out of This World). You can enjoy his incredible sense of humour on his blog (which he writes in Polish).
    Wiktor Jaźniewicz // Belarus’s premier ‘lemologist’, and owner of a ‘lemologic cabinet’ that you can see for yourself here.



    Credits Written & produced by Wojciech Oleksiak
    Edited by Adam Zulawski
    Hosted by Nitzan Reisner & Adam Zulawski
    Scoring & sound design by Wojciech Oleksiak

    • 27 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
16 Ratings

16 Ratings

zski5 ,

Really interesting!

Highly recommended!

Waiel Al-Nour ,

Surprisingly good

An incredibly interesting mixture of history and culture. Really well crafted as well with sound design that makes great use of the format. All in these beautiful snippets that mean I can listen to one whole ep on my journey into work.

wandalightspeed ,

Awesome podcast

This was such a great show! I'd never been interested in Europe much but this was so fricking cool and epic. Bring on the next ep!

You Might Also Like

Tara Brach
WBUR
Pushkin Industries
Dan Pashman and Stitcher
Vox Media Podcast Network
Obsessed Network